WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — In a wide-ranging interview with Vox, President Barack Obama discussed how the changing face of media has polarized politics – although much of the information is simply giving audiences what they want.
Vox notes that Obama was first interviewed by The New York Times 25 years ago for a Feb. 1990 article entitled, “First Black Elected To Head Harvard’s Law Review.”
Obama said data showing he is “the most polarizing president” is misleading, but one major factor is with media. Americans “just don’t have a common place where we go to get common facts and a common worldview the way we did 20,30 years ago.”
“And that just keeps accelerating, you know, and I’m not the first to observe this, but you’ve got the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh folks and then you’ve got the MSNBC folks. … But the point is that technology which brings the world to us also allows us to narrow our point of view. That’s contributed to it.”
Asked if the media “sometimes overstates the level of alarm” with terrorism fears as opposed to “long-term problems” such as climate change and epidemic disease, Obama responded, “absolutely.”
But Obama said the media is simply giving the people what they want.
“I don’t blame the media for that. What’s the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right? You show crime stories and you show fires, because that’s what folks watch, and it’s all about ratings,” said Obama. “Look, the point is this: my first job is to protect the American people. It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.
“There’s just not going to be a lot of interest in a headline story that we have cut infant mortality by really significant amounts over the last 20 years or that extreme poverty has been slashed or that there’s been enormous progress with a program we set up when I first came into office to help poor farmers increase productivity and yields,” continued Obama. “It’s not a sexy story. And climate change is one that is happening at such a broad scale and at such a complex system, it’s a hard story for the media to tell on a day-to-day basis.”
Obama defended foreign aid to Israel and said that the U.S.-Israeli relationship is one in which America has a “special obligation” to help the strongest ally in the region.
“Our relationship with Israel is in many ways unique. It’s our strongest ally in the region. Our people-to-people ties are unmatched. And partly because of world history, the vulnerabilities of a Jewish population in the midst of a really hostile neighborhood create a special obligation for us to help them,” said Obama.